Unstoppable: Paola Egonu contributed 33 of the 95 points Novara scored in the SCHARRena. | Photo: www.tombloch.de

Stuttgart, March 12, 2019 (tob).  Igor Gorgonzola NOVARA’s Paola Egonu hammered out a fantastic 33 points towards her team’s four-set victory at Allianz MTV STUTTGART in the first leg of their quarterfinal clash in the 2019 CEV Volleyball Champions League - Women. This way, the Italian squad took an important step towards the semifinals before the return visit of their German opponents next week.

Allianz MTV STUTTGART (GER) vs. Igor Gorgonzola NOVARA (ITA) 1-3 (19-25, 24-26, 25-19, 20-25)

•    Both teams started a little nervous, but very soon it was very obvious that, with a low percentage of mistakes, the offensive power of Paola Egonu (six points) and Cristina Chirichella (six points) of Igor Gorgonzola NOVARA is something to chew on. Allianz MTV STUTTGART fought well, but the Italian team dominated the set in front of 1,774 spectators on the way to a 25-19 win.
•    Wow, what a second set! In the crunch time no one was seated at the SCHARRena – standing and nail-biting only! Allianz MTV had Igor Gorgonzola very close to their first lost set of the Champions League season, but a service killer ace by Paola Egonu nailed the final score at 26-24 in favour of the Italians.
•    Allianz MTV were not ready to give up. With a very flexible attack, they started the third set well and showed the opponents their potential, within the unique atmosphere of the SCHARRena and their fans supporting them with all they got. It was a special moment when Jana-Franziska Poll single-blocked Egonu for 7-3 forcing an Igor Gorgonzola time-out. The Italians came back to level the score, but in the crunch time, Allianz MTV were stable enough to force Igor Gorgonzola to further instabilities and managed to steal the first set from them this season - a well-earned 25-19 win after a great effort by the German underdogs.
•    Allianz MTV gained an early 5-2 lead in the fourth set, but the Italian strikers turned the scale their way to a 14-6 advantage. Showing great team spirit, Allianz MTV never stopped fighting. Giving up was no alternative. They arranged for a nice comeback, but finally Michelle Bartsch-Hackley finished the match at 25-20 Igor Gorgonzola’s way.
•    Paola Egonu was by far the best scorer of the match with a 33-point contribution to her team’s win. Krystal Rivers scored 16 for Allianz MTV.
•    Just counting the ball points, it was only 7 points difference between two teams where the financial budget is showing a much bigger gap.
•    The second-leg match between these two teams in Italy is scheduled for 20:30 local time on March 21.


Giannis Athanasopoulos, head coach of Allianz MTV STUTTGART: "The most important item to take away from this match is that we never gave up. We lost the second set very close. We fought back and won the third. We were way behind in set 4, but we came back. The last set is a big lesson for us - fighting for every ball. And we did. I am proud of this team."

Deborah van Daelen, captain of Allianz MTV STUTTGART: "They felt our breath through the whole match. It was always very close. But you cannot make any mistakes against a team like this. Although we worked very hard on the court, it was a great pleasure to play that match in front of our great fans."

Massimo Barbolini, head coach of Igor Gorgonzola NOVARA: "Ok, we lost our first set, but this is only going into the statistics. It was a great fight, a tough match, as expected - especially the second set was very difficult for us. Allianz MTV never gave up. And we only reached the first win. We are forced for another strong match next week at home."

Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, outside hitter of Igor Gorgonzola NOVARA: "It was such a great pleasure to play in Germany, with this great crowd and this great atmosphere. I enjoyed it very much."

In case you missed it: The match is available online in the SWR mediathek for the next seven days.